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Thursday, July 16, 2020

AG HEALEY SUES DISPOSABLE E-CIGARETTE COMPANY “PUFF BAR” FOR ILLEGALLY SELLING FLAVORED PRODUCTS IN MASSACHUSETTS


AG HEALEY SUES DISPOSABLE E-CIGARETTE COMPANY “PUFF BAR” FOR ILLEGALLY SELLING FLAVORED PRODUCTS IN MASSACHUSETTS
Office Seeks Court Order to Prevent Illegal Sales and Delivery to Massachusetts


In a complaint filed in Suffolk Superior Court on Wednesday, AG Healey alleges that Puff Bar and Cool Clouds Distribution, Inc. (together “Puff Bar”) violated state laws and regulations by selling flavored tobacco products to Massachusetts consumers and failing to protect against delivery of these products to minors.

“This company’s practices – selling flavored products and delivering products to minors – are plainly illegal under Massachusetts law,” said AG Healey. “These products are dangerous, addictive and particularly appealing to young people, which is why Massachusetts moved quickly to regulate them. Companies that blatantly violate these laws will face legal action from my office.”

The AG’s Office is also seeking a preliminary injunction in court to prevent the illegal sale of these products while litigation is ongoing. A hearing on the AG’s motion for a preliminary injunction will be scheduled in Suffolk Superior Court at a later date.

The AG’s investigation of Puff Bar revealed the company has continued to advertise and sell flavored tobacco products, specifically disposable e-cigarettes, to consumers in Massachusetts, in violation of state law. On November 27, 2019, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and e-liquids. The law went fully into effect on June 1, 2020, also banning all menthol flavored tobacco products. AG Healey testified in support of the legislation to ban flavored tobacco products.

Flavored vaping products are popular among young people and they are a reason why many of them start and continue using nicotine vaping products. As the federal government moves to restrict the sale of some flavored e-cigarette products, disposable e-cigarettes like those sold by Puff Bar are growing in popularity with young people. Puff Bar’s disposable e-cigarettes are especially attractive to youth because they cost less than other e-cigarettes and they are available in more than 20 flavors, including “O.M.G.,” described on its website as “a triple medley of Orange, Guava, and Mango,” and “Blue Razz” described as “candy…making vaping feel like a blue and red raspberry.” The AG’s investigation revealed that Puff Bar continues to sell flavors into Massachusetts that appeal to young people, such as “Menthol (Spearmint)” and “Watermelon.”

The AG’s Office also alleges that Puff Bar does not use a method of mailing, shipping, or delivery of these tobacco products that requires the signature of a person who is of the minimum legal age before the package is released. State regulations instituted by AG Healey in 2015 require sellers to ensure shipments of these products are received by a person 21 years or older.
The AG’s Office alleges that Puff Bar violated An Act Modernizing Tobacco Regulations, the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, and the AG’s e-cigarette regulations. AG Healey’s complaint seeks injunctive relief preventing Puff Bar from continuing to engage in these illegal practices and also seeks civil penalties.
In January, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released guidance describing how the agency will prioritize e-cigarette enforcement resources, including that it will focus on cartridge-based e-cigarettes. The FDA’s focus on cartridge-based products creates a loophole for self-contained, disposable products—like those sold by Puff Bar—that are popular among young people. In Massachusetts, An Act Modernizing Tobacco Regulations prohibits all flavored products from being sold in the state – both in cartridge-based and disposable forms – but this loophole allows these disposable products to more easily make their way into the hands of young people in the state and across the nation. In February, AG Healey joined a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general urging the FDA to expand and strengthen its enforcement guidance to include menthol flavors and products that are not cartridge based.
Preliminary data from the 2019 Massachusetts Youth Health Survey from the spring of 2019, show that the percentage of high school students in Massachusetts who have used vape products is at an all-time high, at over 50 percent, with over 30 percent reporting that they had used vape products in the past month. Young people are exposed to e-cigarette marketing on social media at growing rates and are often unaware that these vaping products contain nicotine, a substance that can interfere with adolescent brain development, and other ingredients that are harmful to their health. The full range of health impacts of e-cigarettes is still unknown, and the public health system is struggling to develop and implement effective cessation methods to meet the needs of young people and their families.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, AG Healey and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) issued a warning to the public about the potential increased dangers and risks associated with smoking and vaping for young people and adults.
AG Healey was the first Attorney General to announce an investigation into JUUL Labs Inc., and in February, sued the company for creating a youth vaping epidemic by intentionally marketing and selling its e-cigarettes to young people. The AG’s Office also sued eight other online e-cigarette companies for selling flavored products in Massachusetts and obtained court orders to halt those sales and deliveries while the cases are pending. The Office sued Eonsmoke LLC for marketing and selling products to young people with flavors like “gummy bear” and “cotton candy.” The AG’s Office also sent cease and desist demands to Direct Eliquid LLC and Kilo E-Liquids, ordering the retailers to stop selling electronic cigarettes in Massachusetts without an adequate age verification system. As a result of the lawsuit and cease and desist letters, these companies are no longer selling to Massachusetts residents. The AG’s Office continues to investigate e-cigarette companies that it suspects are violating state law.
The Puff Bar matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Samantha Shusterman and Division Chief Max Weinstein of the AG’s Consumer Protection Division, and Investigator Ciara Tran of the Civil Investigations Division.

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